Book launch and seminar on Capital as Power
Conventional theories of capitalism are mired in a deep
crisis, for even after centuries of debate they still have no
clear definition of what capital is, argues York political economy
Professor Jonathan Nitzan, co-author of the newly released
Capital as Power: A Study of Order and Creorder.
The book, co-authored with Shimshon Bichler, who teaches
political economy at colleges and universities in Israel, will
launch Monday, Oct. 26, from 4:30 to 6pm, in the Political Science
Lounge, S655 Ross Building, Keele campus. Refreshments will be
Liberals and Marxists both think of
capital as an economic entity, which they count in universal units
of “utils” or “abstract labour”, but Nitzan argues in Capital as
Power (Routledge, 2009) that these units are fictitious.
Nobody has ever been able to observe or measure these units, and
that is because they don’t exist, he says. The problem is that
since liberalism and Marxism depend on these non-existing units,
their theories hang in suspension. They cannot explain the process
that matters the most – the accumulation of capital.
In the book, Nitzan argues that capital is not a narrow economic
entity, but a symbolic quantification of power. It has little to do
with utility or abstract labour, and it extends far beyond machines
and production lines. Capital, says Nitzan, represents the organized
power of dominant capital groups to reshape – or creorder –
Capital as Power looks at the history, assumptions and
limitations of mainstream economics and its associated theories of
politics. It examines the evolution of Marxist thinking on
accumulation and the state. And it articulates an innovative theory
of “capital as power” and a new history of the “capitalist mode of
Nitzan is also the co-author of The Global
Political Economy of Israel (Pluto Press, 2002). His
research interests include critical political economy, capital and
power, global finance, as well as capitalism and militarism.
Prior to the book launch, Nitzan will give a seminar, titled Contours of
Crisis: Fiction and Reality, where he will discuss the popular
view that the current crisis is a “financial” crisis started in and
amplified by the financial sector. He will look at how the crisis is
being blamed on a mismatch between “financial” and “real” capital
and how this mismatch supposedly was set into motion when the world
of finance deviated from and distorted the real world of
accumulation. "The ensuing crash then is the price everyone has to
pay for the financial sector's failure to prevent the distortion,"
This mismatch thesis, the notion of a reality distorted by
finance, is broadly accepted, he says. “It is the basic premise of
liberals, it is endorsed by Marxists, and it guides
But there is a problem with that theory. “The mismatch itself
does not and cannot exist, and for the simplest of reasons: the very
distinction between 'real' and 'financial' capital is entirely
fictitious,” says Nitzan.
Contours of Crisis: Fiction and Reality will run from 2:30 to
4:30pm in the Verney Room, S674 Ross Building, Keele campus.
For more information, contact Jonathan Nitzan at email@example.com or visit The Bichler
& Nitzan Archives Web site.